You’re cruising along, minding your own business, when another car comes out of nowhere and hits you. The force of the impact leaves you with cuts, bruises and a whiplash injury so painful that it’s impossible to turn your head, let alone care for your toddler, walk the dog or make it into work. At times such as these, you want to know that help is at hand — and it is.
The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is a Victorian Government body. As an insurer, the TAC provides compensation payouts for personal injury that results from road and transport accidents. If you’ve been in an accident and need medical treatment and support services, you need to call the TAC.
What should I do at the scene of the accident?
Following the accident, if you are able to, you should collect as much information as you can at the scene of the accident. If possible:
- exchange your details with the third parties
- obtain witness details
- take photos.
In order to lodge a TAC claim, you’ll also need to report your accident to the police.
Who can make a claim?
Anyone injured in a road or transport accident can lodge a TAC claim if the accident occurred within Victoria, or involved a registered Victorian vehicle if it happened interstate. Accidents may involve motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and all types of public transport (including trains, trams and buses).
How do I make a claim?
Whether you’re at fault or not, the initial process for lodging a TAC claim is the same:
- Call the TAC on 1300 654 329 and ask for a claim form.
- Complete the form with as much information as possible. This will grant the TAC authority to obtain your medical reports and documents from government agencies and private organisations, such as your accountant.
- Send back the signed form.
It’s a good idea to seek legal advice at an early stage. A lawyer can guide you through the claims process and advise you on your options, depending on your injuries and the circumstances of the accident.
When should I lodge my claim?
If you’re 18 or older, you should lodge the claim within 12 months of the accident. You can lodge a claim up to three years after the accident, but after the initial 12 months, you’ll need to provide an explanation for the delay. There is no guarantee that a claim will be accepted if lodged more than 12 months after an accident. You cannot lodge a claim more than three years after the accident. If you’re under the age of 18, you have until the day before your 21st birthday to lodge the claim, however, you should lodge the claim as soon as possible.
How long does the TAC take to process a claim?
Once the TAC has received your claim, it has 21 days to accept or reject it, or to request more information. If the TAC doesn’t act within this time frame, the law deems this a rejection, and you have 12 months to challenge the decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Why might the TAC reject a claim?
The TAC may reject a claim if it believes that the accident did not occur, or if the accident falls outside its jurisdiction, such as when an accident fails to meet the definition of a road or transport accident. This can be a complicated and technical legal area, so if the TAC rejects your claim, your best bet is to seek legal advice.
If an unregistered vehicle hits you in Victoria, the TAC still covers you, but the driver of that vehicle may have to deal with the implications of not being registered for their car-accident claim and compensation.
What does a claim cover?
Most TAC claims are for medical treatment and support services. A medical excess of $623 applies to claimants who are not admitted to hospital. This excess is the amount of treatment and support services for which the TAC is not responsible to pay. This may be paid by Medicare or a private health fund.
The TAC covers treatment and services including:
- home help
- shopping assistance
- home or car modifications
- pharmacy expenses
- some travel expenses.
If an accident leaves you facing a specific need, make a request to the TAC – you may be surprised by what it covers. What’s more, if the TAC denies a payment, you may have grounds to challenge it.
What if I’ve been seriously injured?
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you can lodge a compensation claim for pain and suffering, lost earnings and lost future earnings. If you have an injury causing any ongoing symptoms or restrictions, seek legal advice.
A serious injury is:
- long-term impairment of a bodily function
- severe psychiatric injury
- scarring and disfigurement
- the loss of a foetus.
So what are the take-home messages? First, ensure that your car registration is up to date, and second, if an accident causes you personal injury, lodge a claim with the TAC – you may be eligible for compensation. The road to recovery can be long, so it’s reassuring to know that you have support along the way.
Timothy Dionyssopoulos is a Principal in Maurice Blackburn’s Dandenong office.